Clarke expects spirited conversation on budget, AVI heart of debate

Next week City Council will continue hearings on Mayor Nutter’s proposed budget.

Since Nutter revealed his budget plan earlier this month, nearly every Thursday as Council wraps-up its weekly session, members have spoke out about Nutter's plan to move to a property tax system that uses market values, collecting an extra $90 million along the way.

After Council's session yesterday, we asked City Council President Darrell Clarke about the issue.

“I’ve been here for 12 years and we’ve never resolved a budget in the second day and we ask members to be patient, continue to participate in the process and at the end of the day, like every year we will come up with a solution,” Clarke said.

“We don’t know what that solution will be because we clearly don’t have all of the information we need, but as responsible elected officials we will get a consensus,” he said. “The biggest argument or level of contention settles around the additional $90 million. The question is should it be separated from the Actual Value Initiative and then have a debate about whether or not the School District should get an additional [$90 million]?”

The proposed shift to a new property tax system is known as the “Actual Value Initiative” (AVI). Nutter hopes to get an extra $90 million in revenue for the school district for the next fiscal year. Critics call the effort a “back door tax increase,” but the Administration has said they are just capturing the rise in property values.

Council members drilled the Administration earlier this week about AVI and the additional revenue. Last week, Councilman Mark Squilla introduced a bill that would keep the current property-tax system, assessments and millage rate in place for another year.

Clarke expects there will be a "spirited conversation" about the budget and ultimately Council will reach a consensus.

“This is a part of the process. It is our responsibility as constituted in the city charter to ask questions about the budget proposed by the Mayor,” Clarke said. “At the end of the day we will  continue to ask those questions and when we will feel comfortable with not only the answers, but having documented information we will take an action.”

Budget hearings will continue into May and Council must pass the budget by June 30.